Letters: State should take trails efforts to next level

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Indiana Trails, founded in 1987 as the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council, concurs with the IBJ editorial regarding trail development being a great way to boost local economies as well as being a tool for “improving Hoosier health, spurring economic development, boosting property values, and creating the kind of amenities that will attract talented workers” [“Editorial: State push for recreational trails is a smart way to boost economy,” Jan. 5].

While Gov. Eric Holcomb is credited three times in the editorial for promoting his Next Level Trails program—and we applaud his ongoing backing of trail expansion—there’s no mention of the dozens of grassroots groups in Indiana that have visualized trail building for decades, working incessantly to convince officials and private funders to back creative, quality-of-life/quality-of-place projects.

Trail-building in Indiana has become so extensive that it has evolved into being a component of multimodal transportation—and not just recreation. In that vein, the Indiana Department of Transportation should officially incorporate pedestrian/bicycling programs under its multimodal transportation umbrella, with equitable budgeting.

Indiana opted in 1987 to prohibit state-owned “linear park” trails like those in Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri, but Hoosier governors and state departments have provided valuable assistance for locally run trail projects.

Now, a major trail issue sits before Govs. Holcomb and Andy Beshear of Kentucky: how to get walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs, non-drivers and tourists over the Ohio River at Evansville-Henderson via the new I-69 bridge, U.S. 41 bridges or a new stand-alone bridge. No such access now exists—contrary to the attractive, safe cross-river access afforded people between Jeffersonville and Louisville, at Madison and between Cincinnati and Newport/Covington in Kentucky.

Let’s take the Next Level Trails program truly to the next level by erecting a landmark, eye-catching bridge for pedestrians at Evansville-Henderson, just as the Quad Cities have done over the Mississippi River with Interstate-74. INDOT and Kentucky can make this happen, and we know that since they did so with the I-265 Lewis & Clark Louisville East End Bridge and the Madison-Milton U.S. 421 bridge.

The Evansville Trails Coalition, Hoosier Rails to Trails Council and others are leading in advocating for safe, barrier-separated, protected pedestrian pathways over the Ohio River.

—Gary M. Davis, community/government relations liaison, Indiana Trails Community

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